Strange Angels

After reading St. Crow’s adult books, I was curious to see what her young adult novel would be like. Strange Angels is included because it is a 2010 ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers Nominee (Retrieved July 19th, 2009 from http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/quickpicks/quickpick.cfm).

Series Title: Betrayals
Author: Lili St. Crow
ISBN-10: 1595142517 ISBN-13: 9781595142511
City and Publisher: New York: Razorbill
Copyright Date: 2009
Author’s Website: http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com

Reader’s Annotation: Dru’s Dad has taught her how to fire a gun, the best way to escape the house, and how to distinguish a poltergeist from an actual ghost. Unfortunately, he never taught her what to do when everyone she loves is either dead…or undead.

Plot Summary: Dru Anderson has a unique life with her father, moving from town to town as he seeks and kills supernatural monsters. Her education is varied; she has a smattering of her Appalachian grandmother’s knowledge of hexes, a basic grounding in martial arts courtesy of her father’s military background, and general education from a blur of different high schools. When she ends up on her own in a tiny Dakota town, she must finally fight the monsters herself. She finds unlikely allies in Graves, a misfit from her high school, and Christophe, who has fangs but can walk around in daylight.

Critical Evaluation: Lili St. Crow generally writes dark, intense novels for adults. She is an offbeat writer, whose novels are a cross between cheap pulp fiction and arty film noir. In her first book for young adults, her style is muted and flattened. Strange Angels is still a dark novel, but St. Crow has lost the edge that makes her writing intriguing instead of bad. The characters are not as interesting, and the plot tends to spasm uncomfortably, like a dying fish. Particularly angsty teens may still enjoy this book, but all in all it is not a page turner.

Reading Level/Interest: Age 13 and up
Curriculum Ties: Strange Angels works best as a just for fun read, but does include elements of spiritualism and myth which may tie in to units on those subjects.
Booktalking Ideas: Ask teens what they would do if their dad was a zombie. Would they kill him? Allow them to discuss. Then provide a plot summary.

Genre: Paranormal
Beasties and Supernatural Elements: Zombies, Vampires, Dhampirs (half vampire and half human), Werewolves, Psychic/Witches, Hexes
Influences from Other Genres: Cult/Pulp Fiction, Horror

Challenge Issues:
By the end of chapter five, Dru has killed her own father with a nine-millimeter. He was a zombie intent on eating her brains at the time, so it would likely be ruled justifiable self defense. Dru and her friend Graves navigate the rest of the book without the guardianship of any adult. While there are elements of violence in the story, and the lack of parental supervision might be disconcerting, the characters learn to take care of each other. Dru and Graves are not orphans by choice and Graves still insists on behaving as a parent might wish, encouraging Dru to keep attending school as her world falls apart.

About the Author: Lilith St. Crow publishes her young adult books as Lili St. Crow to designate the difference in audience. She lives in Vancouver, Washington with her children and cats. She occasionally volunteers at Cover to Cover books. (More details at http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/journal/about/ and http://www.lilithsaintcrow.com/journal/about/faq/)

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